IT-based surveillance tools may improve quality of outpatient care

As patient interactions outside healthcare facilities grow, new technology-based surveillance tools are being used to target gaps in care.

The Kaiser Permanente Southern California Outpatient Safety Net Program (OSNP), according to a new study published in open-access journal eGEMs, uses electronic health records and "proactive clinical culture" to find ways to improve quality of care. The OSNP is different from the majority of patient safety programs, which only focus on emergency or inpatient care, according to an announcement from Kaiser Permanente.

"More than 98 percent of interactions with patients occur in outpatient settings, and the Outpatient Safety Net Program leverages the power of electronic health records to target care gaps by scanning for things like medication interactions or needed follow-up tests," study author Michael Kanter, regional medical director of quality and clinical analysis at the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, said in a statement.

He added that as other delivery systems implement similar tools, cross-organizational data sharing of such methods could help to further improve outpatient safety. 

The focus on high-quality outpatient care will become even more important as inpatient volumes continue to decline, thanks to a variety of factors including a drop in elective admissions, pressure to reduce readmissions as a result of the Affordable Care Act and new technologies that make outpatient treatment safer.

In 2013, more than two-thirds of hospital and practice executives said they thought outpatient volume would increase, according to an economic outlook survey from Premiere, a healthcare purchasing alliance.

Meanwhile in 2012, FierceHealthcare wrote about hospitals' shift to outpatient care, showing a growing trend in that direction that will only be enhanced by programs like the OSNP.

To learn more:
- check out the study (.pdf)
- read Kaiser Permanente's announcement

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